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GCSE: John Steinbeck

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Who is John Steinbeck?

  1. 1 John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was one of greatest American writers of the 20th century.
  2. 2 He was born in Salinas, California. The majority of his novels are set in the area and have authentic sense of place.
  3. 3 He was very left wing and joined Communist writers league. He refused to testify against his friend and fellow writer Arthur Miller during the MacCarthy anti-Communist trials.
  4. 4 Of Mice and Men is about migrant workers in the Great Depression of 1930s, which is the same theme as many of his other novels. Some critics have said his novels are too sympathetic to workers and are too critical of capitalism.
  5. 5 Of Mice and Men is a contemporary tragedy and follows some of the criteria established by Socrates for dramatic tragedies.

Themes in 'Of Mice and Men'

  1. 1 Dreams
    George wants be his own boss,
    Lennie dreams of being with George,
    Candy longs for security in his old age,
    Crooks dreams of self-respect and acceptance,
    Curley’s wife dreams of being an actress.
  2. 2 The American Dream – The right of everyone to be equal and to own their own home and live off the land. This is a critical issue as it is only a dream (rather than a plausible reality) for the majority of the characters.
  3. 3 Loneliness – It is the fear of loneliness which keeps Lennie and George together,
    Crooks suffers from loneliness as he is excluded or at best tolerated because of his skin colour,
    Curley’s wife’s loneliness forces her to flirt with the men because she is desperate for any attention. To stress this theme further, Steinbeck names the nearest town ‘Soledad’ which means 'loneliness' or 'solitude' in Spanish.
  4. 4 Powerlessness – All of the characters have a sense of their own lack of power, whether this is over their intellectual, economic or social circumstances.
    Lennie ,who could be considered to be the least empowered character, has a great deal of physical power which leads to tragedy.
  5. 5 Lennie and George’s relationship – This is pivotal to the novel and it is necessary to understand the complexities of their familiar relationship, which is almost like that of a father and son.

Top tips for preparing to write an essay on 'Of Mice and Men'

  1. 1 You must read the text several times at least to make sure you know the characters, their relationships and how they are linked.
  2. 2 Consider how the ranch is a microcosm of 1930s American society and portrays the life of migrant workers in California at the time of the Depression.
  3. 3 Consider the significance of Steinbeck’s style and structure. Think about how the novel starts and finishes with the same setting and description. Consider how each chapter opens with a specific setting of place and mood.
  4. 4 Consider how Steinbeck engages the reader through a variety of stylistic features - description, narrative style and characterisation - so the reader is able to have empathy with the characters.
  5. 5 When writing essays for the new GCSE controlled assessments in English literature you should aim to write a response of around 400 words which should be well planned before you start to write.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 43
  • Peer Reviewed essays 19
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  1. Marked by a teacher


    3 star(s)

    Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you." They are all helpless in their isolation, and yet, even at their weakest, they seek to destroy those who are even weaker than they. Crooks shows this cruel and nasty tendency when he criticizes Lennie's dependence on George and their dream of the homestead, their farm where they can work or not work just as they please, be their own boss. Having just admitted his own vulnerabilities-he is a black man with a crooked back who longs for companionship-Crooks homes in on Lennie's own weaknesses, I think this mainly was to make him feel better and less of a failure somehow.

    • Word count: 4671
  2. Lennie is the most tragic character in " Of Mice and Men" To what extent do you agree with this statement?

    We see through Crooks, and how he is ostracised from the rest of the workers, an example of the racial discrimination of the times. Crooks can be regarded as tragic based on modern interpretations of tragedy due to the segregation. Based on Greek and Shakespearean interpretations of tragedy, Lennie and Curley's wife can be considered as tragic, as throughout the novella they produce feelings of pity, fear and excitement in the audience, and both have their tragic flaws, this being an important Aristotle feature, which lead to their downfalls.

    • Word count: 3138
  3. Of Mice and Men English language

    People nicknamed these shanty towns as Hoovervilles, because it was nicknamed after the American president at that time, Herbert Hoover. So how would this recession affect people? Some people couldn't cope with it so they committed suicide. Marriages broke down due to the financial pressure. People became itinery/migrant workers. This means travelling round the country looking for work, if they did find work, it would be short term, unskilled, insecure and labouring. Most jobs were in California (farming area), 1000s of families lost their homes due to failing to pay mortgages, so people had to live in shanty towns.

    • Word count: 6838
  4. Analysis of Loneliness in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

    The novella starts when Lennie and George are escaping a place called Weed due to Lennie's liking for touching things that are 'soft'. Lennie likes the look of a woman's dress, so feels the necessity to experiment. The woman believes that he is attacking her so she runs away and alerts the lynch mob of the area. Lennie and George are forced into hiding till the lynch mob finally retreats. Then, they decide to start a new life, and so the phenomenal story begins.

    • Word count: 4842
  5. Compare the Opening and Closing Scenes

    It suggests a purity and perfection sense-->sense of purity to the reader that associates with the innocence of Lennie; indicates the idealized friendship and the romanticized dream between George and Lennie. On the other hand it helps to emphasize the changing atmosphere when two protagonists enter into the scene. By comparison to the same scene in the closing ending--scene it hints about the future trouble and the calm before the storm. The setting is also a symbol of a place free from society, a safe sanctuary for Lennie and George, where they can be themselves.

    • Word count: 3236
  6. The American Dream

    The chapters start with descriptions of where everyone is at the time and the key ideas that are forthcoming. Using this repetitive pattern gives the whole novel a very circular affect; both start and finish end in the same place and in a way the same manner. They both denote the end of a subdivision in the main characters lives. With the vivid portrayal of George and Lennie comes their dream. They think they have good chance of achieving it and this gives them a hope for their future. There are a number of key elements to it and I believe the most important one is that they will be working for themselves.

    • Word count: 3309
  7. Pre-sequel Mice & Men

    Nutter nick was another worker, his name was renowned because of his short temper, and the only man Nick respected on the Ranch was the only worker without a nickname, David. David was an average man, but everybody respected him because he was the eldest, and also the hardest working on the team. Gumball was one of the newest recruit, along with his travelling partner, Loudmouth Lennie. He was ironically nicknamed due to the amount that he actually spoke. Lennie was a huge man, hovering around 6ft 4 with curly brown hair.

    • Word count: 3048
  8. Discuss the way in which the freindship between George and Lennie and the nature of their dream, shapes the novel and it's ending in Of Mice and Men

    George being a fulltime guardian has a split personality he feels both anger and affection for Lennie. This is shown when Lennie wants Ketchup with his beans. 'Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a' mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy.' George uses religious imagery to show his grief towards Lennie, from a calm relaxed tone he turns to a more aggressive and abusive language. 'You crazy son-of-a-b***h. You keep me in a hot water all the time.' Steinbeck is referring to the all the trouble caused by Lennie. Just like a child, Lennie retaliates by saying 'I could go off in the hills there. Some place I'd find a cave.'

    • Word count: 3546
  9. Steinbeck's novel has been described as a protest statement. To what extent is this true? Which attitudes and values do you think it is protesting against? Do these attitudes and values relate only to American society at a particular period in history, or

    Black people could not vote, they were denied access to a good education and could not get good jobs. This caused many black Americans to suffer great poverty. As well as these, black people faced unfair treatment through the 'Jim Crow' laws. It was a punishable crime for people to mix with other races, and intermarriage was forbidden. Many people faced segregation - the separation of facilities for whites and blacks. White people would have their own restaurants and bars that black people were not permitted to use, and even buses were segregated. This r****t attitude was supported by the Ku Klux Klan, the KKK, a white supremacy that had gained great popularity in the 1920s.

    • Word count: 3236
  10. Explore John Steinbeck's presentation in Of Mice and Men of the culture and experience of the itinerant workers in 1930's America.

    George and Lennie are the two main characters in 'Of Mice and men'. Steinbeck's detailed description of them allows the reader to easily relate to the characters' strong personalities and sympathises with their situation. George and Lennie get on very well; they look out for each other. One of the main things that hold them together is their dream; they are not like other ranch workers because they all travel alone, they are the 'loneliest guys in the world.' They travel together, they have 'got a future...somebody to talk to that gives a d**n' about them.

    • Word count: 6139
  11. Mice and Men Coursework

    Ever since the first colonies were established in America, people wanted their own land. Throughout the 1800's families were travelling west, pushing their way right across the country. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed a man to take on 160 acres of land, register it as a 'claim', farm it for five years then keep it as a heritable property. The act also made it possible for land to be bought cheaply, at $1.25 an acre. However, this act was flawed from the start as the workers found it difficult to make a living due to the amount of land they were given.

    • Word count: 3443
  12. John Steinbeck

    They wanted an end to segregation in cafes, swimming pools and buses as it was demeaning. They also wanted the right to be protected and not be attacked by the police. Black People wanted equality; not something better but equality. The South was much worse for r****m and segregation than the North. Of Mice and Men tells the story of two simple men who try to escape homelessness, economic poverty, and emotional and psychological corruption. George Milton and Lennie Small, two ranch workers, dream of one day owning a small farm so they can harvest their own crops and not take orders from anyone.

    • Word count: 5492
  13. How important were liberal reforms 1907-1911

    people before the election of 1910 because it would be them who would be voting him in, during the election and this speech was to make sure they knew him. 2. Source B and C both agree to an extent. The both agree that some old aged people of that time where in need of help as source B says `one or two poorer couples, just holding on to their homes, but in daily fear of the workhouses` and source C says ` Those small doses meant life itself for many among the elderly poor`.

    • Word count: 3128
  14. Marriage-comparison

    In contrast Waugh gently eases the reader in to the amicable setting of rural England, with an absence of 'harsh words' and 'scenes of domestic playfulness' between the Last's, indicating an external picture of a content marriage. The setting is an extended metaphor of their marriage. Set in Hetton Abbey, named after Arthurian Legend, indicates their marriage is similarly illusionary.

    • Word count: 3407
  15. Explain how the idea of the American Dream is explored in 'Of Mice and Men'. You should discuss how the novel describes the attraction of the dream and how it shows the dreams of characters being dashed

    George's dream, although it was basically the same as Lennie's, is probably more detailed and complicated and Candy, Crooks and Curley's wife, who although possess dreams, either have no one to share them with or have no hopes of ever reaching them. Everyone can dream but clearly, the ability to dream is inextricably tied to having someone to share that dream with. Lennie and George have a dream, which they have thought out very thoroughly. 'We gotta get a big stake together', this conveys that their dream is to make a stake, around 'six hundred dollars'.

    • Word count: 3356
  16. Of Mice and Men is a dark, tragic tale, a parable of two men journeying through a world of pitfalls and brutal, inhumane experiences. Their dream seems all but doomed, obstacles block their ways, happiness appears to be impossible

    Each character has a dream to attain a happy, successful life which many doubted could happen. Each of the characters represents a kind of person in American society and often one that is a victim of discrimination. For each man: (George, Lennie, Candy, and Crooks) human dignity is a primary part of the dream. Without dreams and goals, life is an endless stream of days that have little connection or meaning. In addition to dreams, humans crave contact with others to give life meaning.

    • Word count: 3277
  17. The selected passage is the ending of Wide Sargasso Sea. Most of the selected passage describes the final dream that Antoinette has in the novel. This dream takes place after a conversation with Grace Poole

    Here yet again there is no distinction between dreaming and memory. We do not know whether she is dreaming or just recalling memory. As she recalls the images of her life through her dream it is clear that Antoinette is confused and is unable to distinguish between dream and memory. Along with the loss of distinction between memory and dream Antoinette has lost sense of time. She remembers a room that she has passed but she does not remember when it was that she remembers it from: I passed the room where they brought me yesterday or the day before I don't remember.

    • Word count: 4328
  18. Of Mice and Men: Compare 'The American Dream' with the real lives of the migrant workers Of Mice and Men (OMaM) was first published in 1937

    This symbolizes the lack of hope in the American dream from the ranch workers as, they just carelessly spend their money as soon as they receive this instead of saving it for the future. The novel starts with a detailed description of the surroundings. The writing suggests that Soledad is dream-like with very dry but lush conditions. "the water is lined with trees-willows fresh and green with every spring" Although this sounds very heavenly, the word Soledad means 'loneliness' in Spanish however this contrasts with the happiness of family life ("a path beaten hard by boys coming down from the ranches to swim in the deep pools")

    • Word count: 3160
  19. Loneliness In Of Mice and Men

    "Guys like us that live on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world." George means that if not for each other, then he and Lennie would be all alone, with no friends, like all the men like them, who are nomads working from ranch to ranch without making any friends, and living a lonely, solitary life. Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own.

    • Word count: 5195
  20. Of Mice and Men' is a novel about people. Are there "too many cripples, misfits and unusual characters" in the novel to consider Steinbeck's portrayal as true life?

    Candy as an aged person is on his last job, because if he loses it no one else will take him on. This is his major fear throughout the novel and Steinbeck portrays the aged migrant worker as a pathetic man with only a dog to keep him company. Steinbeck writes ''Candy looked a long time at Slim to try and find some reversal'' The above statement suggests that Candy has no authority with the other workers on the ranch and needs Slim to assist him; this shows Candy, as a cripple, has no respect from the other characters, which is a portrayal of true life during the American Depression.

    • Word count: 3070
  21. Nobody ever gets to heaven, and nobody never gets no land', says Crooks to Lennie. What view of American society in the Depression years does Steinbeck present, and what, if any, comment do you think he is making in the novel?

    I could interpret the reason that made Crooks (Steinbeck) say this in two different views ; I could say that they lost hope in getting to heaven and happiness, this is because people have gone through too much bads in life they think happiness and dreams never come true, they see people having dreams and they themselves have dreams but they know in the end nothing would go right, it made them lose hope an believe heaven is just an illusion and its not possible, that life is so bad that nothing good is going to happen and that life is just nothing to look forward to and you

    • Word count: 6301
  22. Compare the American Dream with the real lives of the migrant workers in the novel "Of Mice and Men".

    He grasped a job as a construction worker, but was laid off. He was able to get another job as a reporter for a short period, but was eventually dismissed. After that incident, to keep him going he had to leave New York in search of a better job. He went to California were ho worked at a lodge and resort in High Sierra. Steinbeck published "Cup of Gold" in 1929, and then he worked on a book called "To an Unknown God". In 1930 Steinbeck married Carol Henning and the couple settled down.

    • Word count: 3651
  23. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck is a story of an unlikely friendship between two migrant workers, George Milton and Lennie Small

    Curley's wife is the wife of the boss's son, Curley. She has the hardship of being the only woman in a ranch full of men who have no understanding of her or women in general. Throughout the novella she is described in different ways - some, where one feels sorry for her and others where one feels utter hatred towards her. She is a character that is misunderstood because of her outward actions, but the truth is that she is actually very similar to many of the characters - lonely and sad.

    • Word count: 3095
  24. Steinbeck's novel, "Of Mice and Men" has been described as a protest statement

    They say I stink" and "I ain't wanted in the bunkhouse." As a result of this prejudice Crooks has become bitter and very lonely. Because there is nothing Crooks can do to avoid his mistreatment then he should not be blamed for anything that has happened to him. However, because he has been at the ranch for a long time he has grown used to the oppression and segregation. He is now so used to this mistreatment that he is beginning to think that that is the correct thing to do.

    • Word count: 3503
  25. Of Mice and Men

    However, most critics agree that Steinbeck's later works don't quite match up to his earlier efforts. Nevertheless, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humour and a keen social perception.". Steinbeck died 20 Dec 1968. Overall Plot. George and Lennie are two migrant American labourers, who share a dream; that one day they may buy a farm, and Lennie will be able to take care of the rabbits. Although Lennie is physically very strong and has the body of a man, he has the mind of a child.

    • Word count: 15420

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Compare and contrast the characters Curley's Wife from 'Of Mice and Men' and Mally from 'Malachi's Cove'

    "In conclusion I think that Curley's Wife and Mally are to completely different characters with totally different personality but as the novel progresses you get to know the characters and you get to know the real Curley's Wife and the real Mally e.g. when Curley's wife died "the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very, pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young" whilst Mally ended up marrying Barty "how beautiful he was in Mally's eyes with that pale face". I think that Steinbeck and Trollope have made the characters this way because it makes the reader think and then feel all sorry for them at the end. So in conclusion my opinion of Curley's Wife and Mally both change as the story progresses because both Steinbeck and Trollope keep the reader in suspense and makes both characters come to life."

  • From a close study of the opening of the novel; and with reference to other stages throughout, discuss the relationship of George and Lennie, commenting on how it relates to the theme of loneliness

    "In my opinion, the novel was very good, the shock ending was very surprising and unexpected, but a closer look throughout the novel foreshows us what happens, such signs as what happened in Weed, the mice that Lennie kills, the need to pet soft things, all of this gives the reader clues to what happens at the end. In my opinion, the relationship between George and Lennie is less than a relationship between two equal adults, and more like father-son, as one of the pair continually leads the other, while the other always follows"

  • Discuss how three or more important symbols add to your understanding of Of Mice and Men.

    "During the novella, the recurrence of loneliness, and speculating at a lonesome finale, is ever present, especially in the form of playing cards. The bunkhouse is often the scene of the games, with George the dealer. This is significant, as George frequently exclaims his desire to be alone, "If I was alone I could live so easy." However, solitude is George's enemy, and he is fearful at the prospect of living alone. This is projected through his card playing, "Slim sat down...across from George...He studied the solitaire hand that was upside-down to him." Inadvertently, George has dealt a game of solitaire- a single player game, an insinuation at the conclusion of the story, when George ultimately kills his companion. A similar event arises when Candy's dog is led by Carlson to be shot. "'Anybody like to play a little euchre?'" asks George. The key theme of loneliness is being forced away by George, who refuses to be alone, opting to ask the group to play cards. The constant reminding of impending solitude, and its effects, enable the reader to understand and fully interpret the inevitability of what is to come. Hands play a vital role in the symbolism of Of Mice and Men. There are various"

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